How, when, to talk adoption

Kristin - posted on 09/10/2009 ( 13 moms have responded )

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Our adoption was finalized this past year. We met her the day after her 3rd birthday, and she moved in with us within a month. She has several birth siblings although she is only aware of one of them, which she knows very well. So it never occurred to me that she was not aware of being adopted. She had even made a few comments during our home study period which made me sure she knew. However lately she has started making comments that make me think otherwise, and I don't know how to respond. Quick background, she was abandoned by birth mom who is fugitive from justice. When abandoned she had been in the same diaper for a week or two. Won't give gory details but not a good situation. Went to live with members of birth family. Then was living with family wanting to adopt her, but when they found out they would have to pay legal fees for adoption they shipped her back with only the clothes on her back. This family also insisted during her brief time there that she call them Mom and Dad. So when we got her we had her call us by our names. We never pushed the name change on her it just happened naturally. One day we were out shopping and she told the sales girl she was thirsty and asked if she could have a drink, the girl smiled and said oh I don't know sweetie why don't you ask your mommy? My daughter looked innocently into her eye's and said "I don't have a Mommy." Both mine, and the sales girls eyes weld up with tears. (Just remembering this brings back a flood of emotions.) She would on the other hand make comments to me about her "other Mommy and Daddy" but when I would show interest in her comment she would clam up or act confused so I never pursued the conversation. All this made me think "she knows, so it is not an issue". Lately though she has started to make comments that make me question it. She will say "I remember when I was in your tummy", or "Can I be a baby again and go back in your belly?" I just laugh and say no way! Your to big to fit, or "you don't want to be a baby again, they don't get as much play time, instead they have more nap time." Since she is anti nap this usually stops all baby talk. We still have contact with the NORMAL members of her birth family, with a great relationship. But I will not subject her to her birth mothers life as it is now. When she is older it will be her decision, but it is in her best interest for now. I want to tell her about being adopted, I just dont want to dredge up any unpleasant memories of her life before us. I will do what ever it takes for her to never feel the pain of what she went through. Maybe I am wrong. Now that my keyboard is wet and I cant stop crying, I ask for your thoughts and advice.

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[deleted account]

I agree with Cheri, honesty that is age appropriate is the best way to go....Are you her legal mommy now....? If so she needs to know you are and that you will always be there and are her mommy...there are some really good books on how to talk to your kids about being adopted and some things even the little ones go through about being adopted, some don't realize they were born cause they only hear their adoption story and not the birth story, thats just an example, I incorportated the adoption with the birth story and told it from the first time I rocked her in my arms...how wonderful her birthmom was to carry her for me and how blessed I was to be the one she chose to raise her...the story evolved over the years to include more facts and answers to the eventual questions....today my daughter is very well adjusted...most of the time....she is 20 lol, and takes great pleasure in tellling her birth/adoption story...

Devon - posted on 01/10/2010

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After lots of research, the option I chose was to make my daughter aware of her adoption from the beginning; even before she could understand it. Ever since she was a baby, we'd say things from time to time like "We're so happy we could adopt you" as we were tucking her in... not cramming it down her throat, just once in a while, to expose her to the term. She also has some storybooks about adoption and a baby book designed for adopted children. The hope is that by the time she's old enough to comprehend what it means to be adopted, she'll already be familiar with the word and it won't seem as if we've been hiding anything. It won't be like this bombshell that's been dropped one day. She'll have known it all along, because it's no big deal.



Since your daughter came into your life at a later age, I imagine it's a greater challenge, but you could still go about it the same way. I think that honesty is the best policy. Field her questions in an honest way, but still as simply as you can. My daughter once asked me if she was a baby in my belly (my sister's pregnancy sparked the curiosity). I just said "No, you were a baby in (birth-mom's name)'s belly and then mommy and daddy adopted you." I know she doesn't understand completely, but I'm not trying to hide anything. When the time comes that she can understand, at least she'll know she was never lied to; that there was no reason to lie.



Maybe get your daughter a storybook about adoption and allow it to spark her curiosity when she's ready. Maybe get a baby book specific to adopted children. I'm sure you're worried that discussing it will dredge up bad memories, but keep in mind that her past and her being adopted by you/your lives together are two seperate events. Speak of her adoption in a proud and celebratory light (because it should be celebrated and you should both be proud). Keeping it hush-hush is what will connect her adoption to her troubled past and may evoke feelings like it's something to be ashamed of, when you know that this isn't the case. Leave the past behind and reminisce fondly about the wonderful day on which you brought her home, and the memories you've built since.

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Patty - posted on 01/24/2011

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A great book for a young adopted child is "How I Was Adopted" by Joanna Cole. It is the best book so far and even explains, without being gross, about the uterus and how babies are born, and how some babies are grown in other babies uterus and need to be adopted. As you read, they ask their story throughout. Check it out. Our daughter is 4 and still does not understand the whole concept, but it is a beginning. The last thing we want is for her to be surprised someday to find out she was adopted. Our adoption is open with her birthparents, but they live in another state so they are not in her lives daily.

Dixie - posted on 12/14/2010

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There are a lot of adopted people in my family - and two opposite cases come to mind when i read your post. My brother was adopted in a closed adoption at six months, and to this day has no idea of any details regarding his birth family. At first the family talked about adoption a lot, but then it faded out of the coversation as more current things took the stage. Then when he was 13 and a neighbor mentioned that he was adopted, he freaked out, no-one had told him - well, we had many times as a toddler, but he forgot and it didn't come up again. It was a rough few years after he discovered it.

My oldest son was 14 hours old when his birth mom placed him in my arms, and even though she lives 1500 miles away, she has always been a part of our sons life. She sends pictures, his siblings text him, he went to visit for 10 days when he turned 17 - and the adoption being openly discussed was made easier by the fact that we celebrate his birthday and his adoption day. Every year on the day we finalyzed the adoption, we give him a gift, let him pick whats for dinner, and mae a fuss about how lucky we are to have him - then to balance it out we celebrate discovery day with our birth son on the day we discovered I was pregnant.

Just say I love you often and the issue of birth or adopted becomes very minor.

Dixie Goode

Kristy - posted on 04/23/2010

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I can relate to your post. I have two beautiful adopted children, siblings just turned 7 and 8. I have told them they were adopted, but it has been a long while since I brought up the word adoption. I thought they knew, I used to tell them that they were delivered to me by angels and how lucky I am. However, my daughter recently said "Mommy remember when I was in your belly?" This started when my sister was pregnant with my nephew. I tried then to once again tell her that she is adopted...gently tell her. She just looked at me confused and shrugged it off. They have other siblings that have come to visit. Their older sister lives with her birthfather, and their younger brother lives with his bio grandparents. Plus, my children's birth mom is my cousin (who has a ton of issues, but that is another story). Now I am fearful that if I push the word adoption on them they will be traumatized like Cassie was in her post. So as I say, I can relate to a degree.

Carmen - posted on 01/15/2010

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this is all to familliar and now seem normal in the way your child is responding,
mine too have a very bad start to life, things we dont ever want to see in ours.
i to had a child who came to live with me after her 3rd birthday and all the things you have listed have been my liitle one's response to thing as well.
i had her younger brother(14 month) came to live with us about 3 months earlier, and he had none of the normal attachment skills, so in that 3 months of cuddles and kisses and i seen a dramatic change in him,(he stayed on his back for 12 month bottle fed only) so when i recieved his sister i noticed her watching us, but not knowing what response she was going to get if she tried to get a cuddle, so i would make it a game that i needed it to be evened up with 1 from her.
didnt take very long for her to be comfortable but then there was my name identity as well. we started with my name for a few weeks then she would slip in a mum, until she knew that it was ok to call me mum and hasnt looked back.
they dont ask for their mum,(they see her every 8 weeks for a few hours) but i have told them they are special and have 2 mums but i chose them to be mine.
that was 3 years ago and life couldnt be happier.
keep up the good work, the world needs more people like us. carmen

[deleted account]

At 3 she has the understanding needed...you just don't want her to start her magical thinking. At her age,she is going to , and sounds like already is getting it all jumbled up and she is trying to make sense of it but, making her own story. As more time goes on, it get's worse. You should come up with your story now and SLOWLY tell her. And I too think that an adoption story book with photos is the way to go.

We adopted 2 years ago, she was 14 months,she is now 3, and totally knows who OUR birth family is,and that she grew in "my birf muver" , Kathryn's, tummy, before she came to live with mommy and Daddy. We too told her slowly from the beginning that she is adopted. It is just matter of fact now...I myself was told at 15 years of age...we'll just say that that was a REALLY good way to mess up a teeneger...We have a fully open adoption...did not start out too well, and we were feeling really threatened by the birth family, but now we have a solid relationship with them, and my baby knows her roots.

Stephanie - posted on 01/09/2010

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I was adopted and my mom always told me the story as a bed time story of how I came to be their daughter and how much she loved and wanted me. That worked great for me I have a wonderful relationship with my mother and my bio mom I also have three full siblings and one half that I talk to regularly she kept all of them I was the fourth child she had one more after me I never had a problem accepting or dealing with my adoption let me know if there is anything my insite from being an adopted child can help you with feel free to message me

[deleted account]

I was adopted at birth and when we adopted our son we agreed to tell him from the very beginning. We always said he was so special and that he had 2 mommies. He is now 8 and he seems to understand it really well. He has not asked alot about his birth mother but he knows her name and where she lives. She has send him presents for his birthday before and his brother sends him e-mail from time to time. We will not tell him that she is a "Escort" and was on drugs when she had him. I think if you start out early it is better because I found out at a doctors appt when I was in the 3rd grade and as great a life as my parents had given me it really messed me up for years.

Vickie - posted on 11/18/2009

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I told my son he was adopted, while he was very young. He is very proud of the fact that I chose him. In your daughter's case, you are wise to not subject her to her birth mother's life. Get a simple child's book that explains adoption & read it to her. Tell her that her birth mother can't keep her because she's ill or too poor. Above all, let her know constantly how much you love her & that you are her mommy now & you'll always be her mommy. You little one needs lots of hugs & affection.

Jessica - posted on 09/15/2009

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It sounds like maybe she does know. Her comments now almost make it seem that she WANTS that to be the way it happened-she knows mommies have babies in their tummies and you are her mommy. I would just keep it very matter-of-fact with her. Not necessarily a long sit-down discussion, just honest statements. Our little guy is only 17 months, but I have bought some children's books about adoption so that we can incorporate it into his life and talk about it matter-of-factly. You and she are lucky to have found each other. Good luck!

Cheri - posted on 09/12/2009

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My adopted (drug baby) son knew early on that he was very loved and I got to pick him, and he got to pick me! After adoption was finalized I had him baptised and an adoption party after. He went around telling everyone he met about his "doption" party! We kept in contact with most of his family and after 8 years mom "healed" and is also a part of our lives now (we're in CA, she's in New Hampshire with grandparents in NY). I've always tried to be honest with him, at his level of understanding.



I told him his mom was too sick to take care of him, which was the truth, and it eased the way for her to get well and be included, and we really like her alot! Honesty (without judgement) is really the best policy. Remember God used her to bring your child into this world, as my son's bio mom did for me!



God bless you and your sweet family,

Cheri

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